Five points as the Ravens and wide receiver Anquan Boldin remain at an impasse over the wide receiver's status for the 2013-14 season:
1. It has been said and written that the Ravens have until tomorrow's start of free agency to make a decision on Boldin. While they'd obviously like to get the situation rectified as soon as possible, there is no deadline. The Ravens are already under the cap so they don't need to slash anymore salaries before the market opens at 4 p.m. tomorrow.
2. Just because the Ravens are currently addressing Boldin's deal, that doesn't mean that any of the other speculated cap casualties, like Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach, are out of the woods. The Ravens are committed to putting themselves in better financial shape going forward and to do that, they're going to have to make some tough decisions on quality veteran players. My sense is Boldin isn't the only one who will be asked to take a pay cut or let go.
3. I don't know how this is going to end, but Boldin is a proud and stubborn guy and it's hard to envision him budging much, regardless of how much he wants to remain with the Ravens. He gets that this is a business, but after he played so well in the playoffs and after his quarterback just became the highest paid player in NFL history, it's easy to see why this is a tough pill for Boldin to swallow.
4. A number of people have asked why the Ravens don't just sign Boldin to an extension that would lower his cap number for the upcoming season. The Ravens are not commenting on the situation, but the most obvious answer from the outside is that they want the wide receiver's contract off the books following next season. That's when the salary cap numbers of Joe Flacco and Lardarius Webb, among others, are going to rise significantly.
5. If the Ravens and Boldin part ways, you'd have to think that the Ravens would hit the free agent market looking for a possession receiver. While Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones are known commodities, it would probably be a little much to expect Tandon Doss, LaQuan Williams, David Reed, Tommy Streeter or Deonte Thompson to step into such a significant role with what they've shown so far.
Five thoughts as free agency is set to begin:
1. I totally understand why linebacker Dannell Ellerbe has emerged as the Ravens' top free agent priority and I've said several times that he was the team's best defensive player during the Super Bowl season. But there's something to probably consider as competition for Ellerbe's services heats up. He's missed at least three games in each of his four NFL seasons and he's played in 33 of the Ravens' 48 regular-season games over the past three years.
2. As well as left tackle Bryant McKinnie performed in the playoffs, I think the Ravens remain in good position to re-sign him without breaking the bank. There are several talented tackles on the free agent market and that position is also a strength in next month's draft. McKinnie will still do OK for himself, but his age (he turns 34 in September), conditioning questions and some of the issues he's had off the field will probably affect his market.
3. The Ravens don't do a whole lot of this with their restricted free agents, but I wonder if they'd at least consider a contract extension for tight end Dennis Pitta this offseason. He's really come in to his own and he has a great bond with Flacco.
4. Nothing has changed in the belief that the Ravens will probably only sign one or two of their own prominent free agents. Obviously, Ellerbe and safety Ed Reed are the most likely to return and it's viewed as a near formality that Paul Kruger and Cary Williams will be playing elsewhere next year.
5. And finally, one reminder about what happened last season when free agency began. On the second day of free agency, the Ravens lost key defensive starters Cory Redding and Jarret Johnson
within hours. Pro Bowl guard Ben Grubbs departed a day later and shortly after that, Tom Zbikowski and Haruki Nakamura left the organization. It was about a week and a half into free agency when the Ravens finally made some moves, re-signing Jameel McClain and Brendon Ayanbadejo, and signing Corey Graham and Sean Considine to free-agent deals. Graham was huge for the Ravens this past year, but they arguably made their biggest free agent addition about a month and a half later when they
added eventual Super Bowl hero Jacoby Jones. My point? It's probably not worth overreacting to the first couple of days of free agency. The Ravens are going to lose players and they've proven that they can overcome that.